Snake Island: Snorkel with the Harbor Seals and Get Up Close and Personal

Outdoor Adventures

Why settle for a humdrum day at the beach when you can enjoy real fun and exciting adventure at Snake Island?

If you are planning a unique and fun water adventure for the whole family, a chance to swim with the seals is  something both kids and adults can enjoy and look forward to.  Spend magical hours of pure fun with the Harbour seals – a favorite activity in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Getting to Snake Island is a Breeze

Take a 10-minute scenic boat ride from Nanaimo to Snake Island, and visit the sanctuary of over 200 charmingly inquisitive and very playful little Harbour Seals. Snake Island is about 3 kilometers  (1.86 miles) from the Departure Bay of Nanaimo. On any given day, these Harbour seals can be easily found frolicking and resting along the surrounding waters.

If you’re lucky, a few seals may be curious enough to come up to you and investigate – look at you, brush by you, or possibly interact and play with the kids! It is sure to be the highlight of your holiday trip. Don’t forget to take photos and document these memorable once in a lifetime close encounters.

Do You Need Experience to Snorkel?

Not necessarily. It’s even safe enough for children 12 years and older. As long as you know how to swim and you’re comfortable enough in the water, then you’re good to go. Expect the waters to be slightly cold, although you will be provided with a wet suit so you can stay warm and comfortable as you explore the underwater paradise.

Enjoy the Breathtaking Underwater Attractions

While the seals are the main attraction of the trip, don’t forget to soak in the enthralling beauty of the teeming marine life. You will be fascinated with the vibrant configurations and profusion of starfish, crabs,  anemones, and other marine life. In the inter-tidal area, it is about 0-20 feet deep around the perimeter of the island. Simply put, it’s a wonderful combination of magic and mystery just waiting to unfold right before your very eyes!

There are a number of great snorkel packages available that offer a great year-round adventure for the family. Typically, the excursion will cost $ 95 per person, which includes boat transportation, the necessary snorkel gear(7mm wetsuit, snorkel, fins and mask), and 3 to 4 hours of exhilarating snorkel adventure under the supervision and assistance of trained diving staff. This is a perfectly safe and exciting activity that your family can do together.

Here are some diving shops you can look into:

Sundown Diving
22 Esplanade Rd, Nanaimo, BC
V9R 4Y7
Contact Number:  250-753-1880

Sink or Swim Scuba
#2 – 4131 Mostar Road, Nanaimo, BC V9T 6A6
Contact Number:  250-758-SWIM (7946)

Nanaimo Dive Outfitters
2205 Northfield Rd.
Nanaimo, BC
V9S 3C3
Contact Number: 250-756-1863

More About Harbour Seals

Harbour Seals, Phoca Vitulina, is a species that belongs to the scientific order Pinnipedia, which includes walruses, seals and sea lions. The male seals typically reach the length of approximately 2.0 m (6.6 feet) and weigh around 170 kg (375 pounds). On the other hand, female seals are slightly smaller with an average height of 1.7 m (5.6 feet) and weigh about 150 kg (331 pounds).

These seals can remain submerged up to a maximum of 28 minutes and can dive as deep as 90 m (295 feet). However, they have been known to routinely scavenge the shallow waters where they feast on fishes, mollusks, crustaceans and squids.

Other Snake Island Attractions

Snake Island is also known as a natural bird sanctuary, so aside from the stunning underwater sights, you also get to enjoy the company of different bird species. Among the most popular attraction include the Bald Eagle.

On the west side of the Snake Island, you can also see the magnificent and dramatic sandstone overhangs. These gigantic depressions that are carved into the sandstone walls present nice and comfy nooks for family picnics and photography sessions.

On the northern end of the island, there is also a picturesque little lighthouse as well breathtaking views of the Georgia Straight.

Getting to Nanaimo

Visiting Nanaimo is quite easy since there are a number of transportation options you can choose from. If you prefer to take the traditional route, you can use the Trans-Canada Highway, which winds from the northern part of Victoria and leads you to the Departure Bay ferry terminal.  The alternative route is the Island Highway, which takes you through a path leading to a string of business parks and shopping malls.

  • By Ferry — Nanaimo is a major departure and arrival point with over 5 million passengers and 2 million cars arriving every year via BC Ferries. The city is to 2 of the island’s 3 major terminals for ferry transport. The first one is located on the northwestern tip of the downtown area, Departure Bay. The other  is situated on the southern edge, the Duke Point.
  • By Rail – The Malahat usually stops by Nanaimo twice a day, once in the mid-morning on its route from Victoria to Courtenay, and another trip mid-afternoon from its return trip to the south. The train station, located at 336 Prideaux St. can be found in the Old City District, which is approximately 10 minutes from the harbour or from the downtown area.
  • By Bus – If you prefer to travel by public transportation, the Greyhound is the common bus service used in Nanaimo. The bus station is just adjacent to the Howard Johnson Hotel, and it is about 15 minutes away from the downtown area. Trips are regularly scheduled in the modern, afternoon as well as on early evening. For pick up schedules, check Visitor Centre, or you can also call the Customer Hotline (250-390-4531) for routing schedules and trips.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Amazing Vancouver Island and a clickable link back to this page.

Publisher of Amazing Vancouver Island. Doug grew up in Kamloops and Vancouver. He is also the President of KIAI Angency, an Internet Marketing and Branding agency in Vancouver. He is an avid photographer and you can see his many pix of Vancouver Island on Flickr.

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